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Charity Shop Grade Textiles in the United Kingdom

Olaia Alamos CastresanaCharity shops provide significant environmental benefits through the reuse and recycling of goods. Around 95 per cent of the clothes donated to charity shops are either recycled or reused; with each of the over 11,200 charity shops in the UK diverting, on average, 30 tonnes a year of textiles from landfill. Charity shops’ contribution to reduced landfill use also helps the UK decrease its CO2 output by around 7m tonnes per year and saves councils approximately £27m per year in landfill tax (the tax paid by local councils for disposing of waste in landfill sites).

Over the last two years, we have worked together with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to gather evidence on the level of textile waste in the UK, which is recorded in the statistics on waste from households. A new report, Charity Shop Grade textiles in the UK, has been produced. It discusses the estimated amounts of Charity Shop Grade (CSG) textiles sold by charity shops to textile merchants for recycling or preparing for reuse. CSG is also referred to as ‘rag’ within the charity retail sector. This report has been published because textiles form an important component of national consumption. This information is being reported in order to give a better understanding of textile flows around the circular economy.

The main findings are summarised below:

  • Between 2016 and 2017 the estimated income from CSG textiles generated by UK charity shops has risen by around eight per cent. The amount of CSG textiles sold to textile merchants (for recycling or preparing for reuse) varies slightly from quarter to quarter; this increase is due to the rise of the price of textiles sold to textile merchants over 2017.
  • The estimated amount of CSG textiles recycled (which includes textiles sold for recycling or preparing for reuse) from households through charity retailers was 147k tonnes in 2016 (2017: 137k tonnes); compared to 119k tonnes (no available figure for 2017) recycled through the local authorities (data from WasteDataFlow). Quantities of textiles recycled through other private organisations are not yet known but could be significant, so it is hoped that this data will become available in future.

Download the full report below (pdf format).

Charity Shop Grade textiles in the United Kingdom.

Olaia Alamos Castresana
Research Manager
Charity Retail Association